It’s been a rough year to be a soccer fan on the border.
Club Tijuana had made quick success one of its selling points to fans with its rapid rise to the Mexican first division followed up by a first division title the same year the club was celebrating its fifth birthday. To some extent it had to; in an area that had been starved of a big-time team for so long, plenty have pledged their loyalties to other clubs in Mexico or the United States.
But after that title, the club has had little to woo fans with, and the past tournament was a low point. Tijuana finished better than just one team in Liga MX (a team also owned by Tijuana owners Grupo Caliente).
Yet, last week showed there is reason for hope for the club’s supporters. The calvary is arriving.
Miguel Herrera was officially introduced as the club’s head coach, with his staff sitting at his side, and outlined his plans for the club during a news conference last Tuesday.
“I come with the idea of being a winner and continuing the success we’ve had in recent years,” he said. “The idea is to be the champion, it’s not qualifying by the seat of our pants any more, you have to fight on the top level.”
Herrera would probably still be the Mexico national team manager were it not for an airport skirmish with a commentator following their 2015 Gold Cup Triumph, and is an excellent coup for Xolos. There’s no doubt Tijuana is paying a fair bit for Herrera’s services and will continue to open the wallet for more signings.
Tijuana recently announced the signing of Argentine midfielder Nicolas Domingo, who joins rising Mexican star Alonso Escoboza as a winter arrival. More are yet to come.
But in addition to those signings, Herrera indicated he will take a long look at Tijuana’s youth teams. So far, he’s liking what he sees. The Under-15 team already secured the Liga MX championship at that age level, and while those players are too young for any immediate first-team action, the U-20 side contains some players already earning playing time as part of Tijuana’s first team. The U-20s are in the two-legged final, giving Herrera reason to believe he has some of the best homegrown players in Mexico and giving fans of Tijuana belief that the club might soon be able to turn things around.
“We’re going to stay with much of the team from the past season, we’re really going to take the youth teams in mind,” Herrera said.
One of the players currently contesting the U-20 final who has seen a fair share of minutes with the top team is American attacker Paul Arriola. He, John Requejo, Amando Moreno, Fernando Arce Jr., Adrian Zendejas all were born in the U.S. and figure to be a part of El Piojo’s plans sooner or later.
The manager said he would continue to take advantage of Tijuana’s location against the border for player development and fan support.
“We have many Mexican-American players that draw plenty of attention in the United States. That will help our market grow in the United States,” Herrera said. “We want the border to become a problem, but on the opposite side. We want the border [wait] to be longer coming down here.”
Fans living in the U.S. spilled over with regularity when the team was the champion. Herrera and his rising players just have to give them a reason to endure the traffic and make the trip to see their local team again.